Clonus refers to a condition whereby muscles contract and relax involuntarily, usually in large motions. This disorder may point to underlying neurological problems such as multiple sclerosis or stroke and most commonly occurs in the ankle and foot. Ankle clonus can occur when the ankle jerks up and down in a spasmodic contraction and relaxation manner. More than four or five movements of the ankle in this fashion can be thought to be pathological. This means that it is considered extreme and may be caused by underlying medical issues.
Ankle clonus may be a sign of cerebral palsy and some children who exhibit signs in the first year of life can go on to develop cerebral palsy. This condition refers to the disorder of muscle tone and movement that may be caused by an injury or compromised development of the brain before birth. The test for ankle clonus is relatively simple. A physician will typically flex the foot back and forth and if it continues to flex on its own once released then this may be an indication of clonus, and potentially cerebral palsy. This particular form of clonus is the most common.
Other potential causes of this condition may include brain disorders, serotonin syndrome, which is a drug reaction that causes the patient to develop too much serotonin, and spinal cord lesions. Liver failure, head injuries, Alzheimer's disease and chemical poisoning are all other underlying causes for this condition. A physician will typically require a list of medications that are being taken, as well as a family history before settling on a course of treatment. Very often a person suffering from clonus will be referred to a physical therapist as a first course of action. Depending on the severity of the condition, they may also be required to see a neurologist.
There are a few surgical treatment options for ankle clonus. One of these options could include surgery to remove lesions within the brain or spinal cord. Certain ankle stretching exercises can be employed as another option. Drug therapy may also be recommended to help ease the symptoms of this disorder. Patients suffering from this will sometimes use supports such as canes and braces to help with their stability.
Ankle clonus often presents with other symptoms. These can include atrophy or wasting at the ankle site. Weakness is typically present as well when testing for this condition. If the spasmodic movements are occurring in conjunction with headaches, this may be an indication of some underlying brain related issue.